The Secret Garden Party, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Some festivals could take place anywhere flat. Secret Garden, now in its fourth year, has a more intimate relationship with its dinky site, which centres on an idyllic lake, full of ducklings and bearing a giant floating hand. Instead of sponsors and big bands, the 6,000-capacity event favours eccentricity and merriment: everyone is in costume, one tree is covered in bread and, at the back of the site, a car rears from the ground, the words "Spam purse" written on its battered windscreen.

All this tomfoolery means a perfectly decent band can be watched - literally - by one man and his dog, while a piggyback assault course draws hundreds. Some acts seem rather put out by this: Ian McCulloch looks bemused during Echo and the Bunnymen's low-key set, while the Sunshine Underground pause from their rambunctious indie-dance to lambast the "fucking organisers".

Acts who go with the flow prosper. Vast Swedish collective I'm from Barcelona come replete with bizarre stage announcements, triumphant saxophone flourishes and confetti, and their bouncing singalongs sound joyous in the afternoon sun.

New Young Pony Club have the misfortune to play in Saturday night's downpour. Their lascivious electro-pop may be artful on record, but here they are raw and compelling, Andy Spence's guitar slashing away at the underside of The Get Go. On the second stage, Belgian power trio Das Pop pump out a fearsome racket and Kristoffer Ragnstam mixes sharp modern rock with riffing fit to make Bill and Ted gush.

This is not the most symmetrical of events - an amble can take you past lovelorn folk and a heaving dance tent into a throng attempting to waltz on a slope - but if you are after an escape from the humdrum, Secret Garden is just the ticket.


James Smart

The GuardianTramp

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